IHRSA Institute Scholarships Fuel Professional Development

The next generation of health club leaders can take their career to the next level by attending The IHRSA Institute. And two scholarships can help you get there.

Each year, IHRSA offers two scholarships to The IHRSA Institute, a program that has an impressive history of educating, connecting, and motivating the next generation of health club professionals.

“The Institute represents one of IHRSA’s first initiatives to reach out to the next generation of industry leaders,” says John McCarthy, who was IHRSA’s first executive director, serving for 25 years. “In essence, it is a transfer of business experience from today’s leaders to the those of tomorrow.”

The Institute was founded more than 30 years ago as a way to give back to the health club and fitness industry. Pam O’Donnell, IHRSA’s vice president of member experience and development, describes it as a “management boot camp for health club operators” offering executives a deeper dive than that typically experienced at an industry convention.

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Attendees from the 2018 IHRSA Institute pose for a photo.

Held August 6-9 this year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the event covers:

  • industry trends
  • strategic planning
  • sales and financial management
  • marketing strategies
  • employee hiring, training, and development
  • member experience, engagement, and retention

Industry experts, including Alan Leach, Helen Durkin, Chris Stevenson, and Greta Wagner, along with UNC professors, lead sessions in intimate classroom settings.

In-depth conversations between faculty and attendees continue at meals, social activities, and on-site workouts. Participants continually tout how the experience has enriched their careers.

“I’m proud of the Institute, its faculty, and of course IHRSA for supporting this magnificent program,” says McCarthy.

Supporting the Next Generation of Health Club Leaders

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Michele Melkerson-Granryd leads a discussion at last year's Institute.

IHRSA’s two scholarships to attend The Institute are intended to encourage the industry’s future leaders. Each has a value of more than $3,000, and include registration, program materials and handouts, social and networking events, lodging, meals, and a $500 travel stipend.

The John McCarthy Scholarship, created when McCarthy retired in 2006, pays tribute to his steady quest to enhance IHRSA and the industry as a whole, and to grow the best and brightest professionals.

The Curt & Jane Beusman Scholarship honors two of IHRSA’s most passionate founders who dedicated their lives to the health club industry. It was launched at Curt’s memorial service in 2015 to recognize the couple’s tireless efforts to educate their peers.

“My parents would have been truly pleased to have a scholarship in their names,” says Rick Beusman, the president of the Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco, NY, which Curt founded in 1972. “It has always been a big part of our club’s culture that the industry grows best by sharing best practices and teaching to the highest standards.”

Scholarships are awarded to individuals employed by IHRSA member clubs who demonstrate passion for, and absolute commitment to, the health club industry’s future, as well as for their service, sales, and leadership skills. A panel of experienced industry professionals, including Rick Caro, Bill McBride, Rick Beusman, Michele Melkerson-Granryd, and Bud Rockhill, select recipients.

Career and Club Win-Win

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Chris Stevenson speaks at last year's Institute.

The 2016 Beusman scholarship recipient, Avenu Fitness President Brent Gallagher, said that The Institute taught him to truly own his business’ niche.

“We only offer 30-minute fitness and Pilates training, and, at first, it was difficult to pass on opportunities,” he says. “But by refining our boundaries, we’ve created a game in which only we know the rules, giving us the upper hand in serving the busy and stressed community that exists in every gym’s backyard.”

The Institute also helped Azeza Tessereau, the 2016 recipient of the John McCarthy scholarship, to open a new club in 2018. She is the general manager of the Wellbridge Athletic Club & Spa in Clayton, MO.

“As part of this club opening, we updated program offerings, created more unique experiences, and improved technology,” she says. “With the opportunity to start fresh, and take a closer look at member engagement and the member experience, my foundation at the IHRSA Institute helped me immensely.”

Tessereau emphasized the value of the information she learned. “I walked away with concepts, systems, and strategies to help me long-term—not simply the latest and greatest trends, but a deeper understanding of the industry.”

“With the opportunity to start fresh, and take a closer look at member engagement and the member experience, my foundation at the IHRSA Institute helped me immensely.”

Azeza Tessereau, General Manager

Wellbridge Athletic Club & Spa - Clayton, MO

Of course, the relationships established at the IHRSA Institute are also priceless, points out Kelli Mokeler, the fitness director at Cedardale Health & Fitness in Haverhill, MA, who attended as the 2018 Beusman scholarship winner.

“I acquired a huge list of resources, and a fantastic network of top-notch fitness professionals; and, as a scholarship recipient, I was able to connect with the staff and presenters on a more personal level,” she says. “Plus, I’m now more aware of my professional goals.”

Ultimately, The Institute can play a role in driving professional experiences and aspirations.

“Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who are a few steps ahead of you paints a picture of what could be, from a career standpoint,” says Gallagher. “When you connect with some of the brightest minds in our industry, you gain insight that would take five to 10 years’ worth of bumps and bruises to learn.”

Apply for an IHRSA Institute Scholarship

Applications for scholarships to attend The IHRSA Institute are due May 10, 2019, and donations to the scholarship funds can be made anytime.

“IHRSA proudly offers these scholarships to make it possible for individuals who demonstrate a passion for the industry to experience this one-of-a-kind event,” says Tara Verity, IHRSA’s senior service project manager. “Contributing to the scholarship fund is a great way to pay tribute to the scholarship namesakes, and to support IHRSA in recognizing the next generation of industry leaders.”

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Julie King

Julie King is a contributor to Club Business International.